Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
American Trucking Associations
(Reargued the cause for the respondents)
(Reargued the cause for the petitioners)
Facts of the Case 

In 1983, the American Trucking Associations, Inc. (ATA) challenged the flat tax portion of Arkansas' Highway Use Equalization (HUE) tax, alleging that it violated the Commerce Clause. The Arkansas Supreme Court, relying on Supreme Court precedent, rejected this claim. Subsequently, on June 23, 1987, the Supreme Court decided American Trucking Ass'ns., Inc. v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987), which held that state application of flat highway use taxes was unconstitutional. Pending re-hearing in the Arkansas Supreme Court, Justice Blackmun ordered, in August 1987, that all new taxes collected be kept in escrow. Subsequently, the Arkansas Supreme Court held that HUE was unconstitutional, but that Scheiner did not apply retroactively. The court went on to decide that taxes already collected for the tax year beginning July 1, 1987, could remain in the state treasury, but that those funds placed in the escrow account ordered by Justice Blackmun should be refunded, as they had not been spent or budgeted for future spending.


(1) Does the Court's decision in Scheiner apply retroactively? (2) Even if the Scheiner decision does not apply retroactively, can the state keep taxes collected before the escrow account was established when those taxes are for the tax year July 1, 1987 to June 30, 1988, a period after Scheiner?

Decision: 5 votes for Smith, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

No and no. A plurality of the Court held that Scheiner did not apply retroactively, and that state collection of taxes for the tax year beginning July 1, 1987, before the establishment of the escrow account, was unconstitutional. Applying the test of non-retroactivity articulated in Chevron Oil v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97 (1971), the Court found that Scheiner clearly established a new principle of law; that the purpose of the Commerce Clause did not support retroactive application; and that equitable considerations weighed heavily against retroactivity. The Court went on to reverse the Arkansas Supreme Court's decision not to refund taxes already collected for the tax year beginning July 1, 1987, reasoning that the conduct to which Scheiner applied prospectively was the use of the highway, not the payment of money therefor. Justice Scalia concurred in the result, but disagreed with the plurality's retroactivity analysis. He found that the only reason to follow Scheiner, which he believed to be wrongly decided, was the doctrine of stare decisis, which only applies prospectively.

Cite this Page
AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS v. SMITH. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS v. SMITH, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS v. SMITH," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,